Is it a time bomb waiting to explode? Will it strengthen the nation or mar it? Obviously whichever way it is viewed, 2015 is a year with so, much uncertainties just as it is very critical to the future of Nigeria.
In this Special Report, Saturday Vanguard's JOHN BULUS once again analyses the various intrigues and agitations by various persons, groups and regions to produce the next President of Nigeria, adducing that the year might be the nation's biggest headache.
Though 2015 is yet to come, it is definitely a year of utmost significance in the Nigerian political lexicon. According to the constitution and the country's election's calendar, the year will herald the expiration of the tenure of presently elected political office holders in Nigeria who would have served out their term of four years by then, ranging from the office of President and his Vice to the 469 seats in both red and green chambers of the national assembly down to the states where a substantial number of governors and the state assembly members will vacate office.
Indeed, 2015 is the most talked about in both political and social spheres. It is yet another year for political actors, old and new, losers and winners of previous elections and even new entrants who
would debut in the political game. But as it inches closer and closer, apprehension continues to gather in the air as to what would be the outcome of the period to the entity called Nigeria.
Essentially, various regions and political affiliations are currently displaying some predilection to themselves, clamouring for power shift to their region and groups. Unfortunately, the ugly trend is polarizing as different ethnic elements who feel marginalized crave for power. But while the issue and its trappings may not be that loud among the various ethnic groups that populate various states, it is one sensitive issue that tends to set the nation's three major ethnic circles on a war path. Thus: the Igbo, the Yoruba and the Hausa are displaying prejudices and locking up themselves in untoward, out-flanking political intrigues and strategies to clinch the number one office in the land.
More so, the partitioning of the country into political geo-political zones to accommodate other various growing interests, which was well intended ab initio may not have helped the system. Rather, it has, unfortunately, virulently enthroned fiercer aggressions and animosity among the zones. But then, analysts say the situation is a by-product of various incongruencies in the chequered political history of Nigeria.
The larger background
Believe it or not, Nigeria as a political entity has had several challenges in her journey to nationhood. For instance, it was not long after Nigeria gained her independence on October 1, 1960 that a flurry of fortunate and unfortunate events began to happen. Again, while the country was still finding its bearing, the military struck on January 15, 1966, just six years after the attainment of self rule.
And almost in quick succession, July 29, 1966 saw yet another coup. Reasons were given by the military that seized power and truncated democratic rule. Some eminent Nigerians and indeed, the country's leaders at that time paid the supreme price as they were gruesomely murdered.
The country boiled. Fury became inevitable.Divisions amongst regions permeated. Reconciliation became almost elusive. More regrettably, the volatile situation culminated into what has been described by both historians and political analysts as the greatest challenge in the history of this country; the Nigerian Civil War. Indeed, for 30 months between 1967 and 1970, there was inter-tribal war in Nigeria with the seceding Biafra which is now the now South-East geo-political zone of the country.
The war was fought and luckily, the country became one again. But keen political observers are quick to say that since then, things have not been the same again for the country especially as it concerns political power and presidency.
The military, regions and quest for power
At the dawn of independence, a parliamentary system of government was adopted in 1963. This prompted the sharing of power between the three major regions of North, East and the West. While, late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Belawa was the Prime Minister, late Dr. Nmamdi Azikiwe became the President while Dr. Obafemi Awolowo was the leader of Official Opposition in the Federal Parliament. By this arrangement, the trio became the representatives of the major ethnic groups in the country. But unfortunately, the first military coup killed and shortened the tenure of Balewa and gave power to the ranking military officer, Gen. Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi Ironsi. Ironsi was just about calming frayed nerves arising from the first coup when he met his death in yet another bloody coup.
With this development, General Yakubo Gowon became the nation's new helmsman. Coming from the northern region, many people say he represented the North in the power equation. For nine years which spanned from 1966 to 1975, General Gowon was the Head of State. Upon his exit, General Murtala Mohammed, another Northerner took over. But unfortunately, just barely one year in office, General Mohammed was killed in another coup by Colonel Buka Suka Dimka. General Mohammed's departure brought a change for the first time in years after Ironsi.
His second -in -Command, General Olusegun Obasanjo, a Yoruba from the South West assumed power as the new Head of State. Obasanjo was to restore the country back to civilian path of governance in 1979 and handed over power to yet another Northerner, Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
President Shagari was just about starting another four year term in 1983 when General Mohammad Buhari, another Northerner, wielded the guns and sacked the democratically elected government of Shagari. Barely, two years in office, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, popularly known as IBB, still a northerner staged what was called a palace coup and chased General Buhari out of office August 27, 1985. Gen. IBB stayed long in power but for rash condemnation until lovers of democracy both at home and in diaspora agitated against military rule.
June 12 and South-West political involvement
June 12 has become a popular date and perhaps, a parlance used to remember a presidential election which was generally believed to have been won by the late M. K. O. Abiola, a business mogul and industrialist from the South-West in 1993.
The election was conducted by IBB's government after nine years in office but the result of that election was annuled. To pacify the west, Ernest Shonekan was made the Interim National Government, ING.
Nigerians were yet to see the mandate of that regime when incidentally, another General from the North, General Sani Abacha struck in yet another coup. General Abacha ruled until death knocked on his door in 1998. Swiftly, his northern brother, General Abdulsalami Abubakar took over form him.
Shopping for a suitable candidate to further pacify the West, the power brokers at that time cast their lot on General Olusegun Obasanjo, the former head of State. Fresh from the prisons, Obasanjo was dusted to contest the 1998 Presidential elections which he later won.
He was later sworn in as President on May 29, 1999 to start a regime that earned the Yoruba eight years in power. With that, it became apparent that the West has been duly compensated. Progressively, in 2007, power shifted back to the North with late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua clinching the number one political office in the land. Obviously, many people had expected that in the spirit of the present controversial rotational presidency which the ruling PDP adopted, President Yar'Adua would have, like his predecessor sought a second term in office to make up his eight years.
But the power equation changed on the heels of his demise in 2010, prompting another change that threw up his then Vice, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as President.
The emergence of President Jonathan, an Ijaw man from the hitherto, South-South minority zone raised many questions . For instance, at the build up of the election, the northern oligarchy bled.
They shouted it to the mountain tops that the north needed to serve out their eight years to give room for the South East in 2015 going by the rotational equation. But then, things have since changed in the country. Most Nigerians needed a change and they got the change they needed and elected a man of humble background known to be away from known political bourgeoisies and dynasties of the country.
But now, not long after the 2011 elections that brought Jonathan to power, the major regions at it again,
aggressively agitating for power amidst President Jonathan's silence on whether to play Oliver Twist in 2015 or not.
The north is very equivocal about 2015. In fact, a great number of northern elites and power mongers have repeatedly said that power must return to the North at the expiration of President Jonathan's term in 2015.
Most of them who have somewhat become serial losers but ardent contestants have already declared their stand even with three years ahead of the election year.
Hear General Mohammed Buhari, a three time contestant for the president's office recently in Kano: "I am in Kano to open our party office following the intra and inter party squabbles that cost us the election. But I want to tell you we are already settling down and are ready to face you guys squarely", he told the Kano State Governor, Alhaji Musa Kwankwasu.
Also, Alhaji Lawal Kaita, close ally of former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, who promised Nigerians in October 2010 that the North would make the country ungovernable for President Jonathan if he won the 2011 election recently said: "We hear rumours all over that Jonathan is planning to contest in 2015. Well, the North is going to be prepared if the country remains one.
That is, if the country remains one, we are going to fight for it. If not, everybody can go his way," he was quoted as saying in Katsina.
Besides, the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubarkar is another Northerner who is not only bent on having power shift to the North but wants to clinch power himself. He contested the People Democratic Party, PDP, primaries with President Jonathan in 2011 and lost.
Again, he has said he is contesting the 2015 presidential elections.
In a statement by his media office lately, Atiku said it has become imperative considering the fact that insinuations were rife that he cannot stand for election in 2015.
The statement reads: "In this post-zoning era, President Jonathan is free to contest, his younger brothers or anyone from Otuoke village are free to contest, while Atiku Abubakar is also veryN eminently qualified to aspire to become the president of Nigeria in 2015.
President Jonathan can aspire to contest for the presidency as many times as he wants with Bamanga Tukur as the PDP Chairman. But, these must not stop Atiku from raising his hands for presidency.
"Those who are engaged in political blackmail should desist and look up to Allah who is the author and finisher of the many desires of a man's heart. He is also the Supreme Being, the only one who can
determine the future with certainty, including what will happen in 2015.
"It is also instructive, as Chinua Achebe advised that those whose palm-kernel has been cracked by benevolent spirits should not forget to be humble.
Some of these political fortune-tellers have, in a desperate attempt to keep their man, meaning, President Goodluck Jonathan in power beyond 2015, foreclosed Atiku's bid for the presidency.
"They think Atiku's bid can no longer see the light of the day. They are wrong, dead wrong!
"For Atiku Abubakar, whose political qualities and skills are not hidden to Nigerians, the 2015 presidential race has not become his pre-occupation, considering the fact that President Jonathan has not even completed one year into the tenure.
That is why Atiku has not even made any policy statement on this administration. There is no doubt that Atiku is the issue in Nigerian politics today! We do not know of tomorrow.
"If the intentions of these ghost political jobbers are to make way for President Jonathan to violate his promise of not contesting for the presidency in 2015 and therefore remain in office beyond that year, these agents of political power-mongering do not need Atiku's name to achieve all that.
"Atiku stood and fought for zoning in 2011 to ensure equity and maintain the constitution of the party. He was there at the 1994-1995 Constitutional Conference where the six geo-political zones were created and zoning made part of the constitution of Nigeria to give a sense of belonging to all parts of the country, particularly the minority ethnic groups which President Jonathan is part of.
"It was unfortunate that General Abdulsalami Abubakar's military government removed the zoning clause from the constitution. From here, the PDP picked up the battle and made it its own. The party inserted zoning in its constitution and this accounts for why its fortunes soared. President Jonathan and his political supporters ensured that zoning in the PDP constitution was destroyed in 2011".
Atiku's chances, analysts say, may be slim considering the fact that the current PDP national chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Turkur who is expected to lift up the hands of the Party's candidate in the election hails from his Adamawa State.
They argued that it does not sound logically reasonable for one state to produce the national chairman of a ruling party and a presidential candidate simultaneously, concluding however, that the permutations of the times may change things.
Younger elements in the north may also be interested in the plum job. It is widely believed that the young blood may be the marketable products to other parts of the country. This may have been why people like the former anti-corruption czar and former EFCC Chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu debuted in the last general election to test the waters.
Meanwhile, speculations are rife that the current governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido is being prepped alongside his Rivers State counter-part, Rt. Hon. Chubuike Rotimi Amaechi by some forces to
contest in 2015. Similarly, the servant-leader Governor of Niger State, Alhaji Babangida Aliyu is being rumoured to have his eyes on the office. But the governor recently said he is yet to make up his mind on the issue.
2015 and Ndigbo
Undoubtedly, the greatest want of the Igbo is to produce the next President. They have their reason: Marginalization.
The Igbo believe that the region has been completely alienated from the scheme of things in the country. They won't hesitate to say that since the death of the first Head of State, Aguiyi Ironsi, in 1966, power has eluded it.
And it is becoming apparent that the region has woken up from its slumber having stuttered over the years to contest the 2015 election. Signals from some Elders of the region are saying that it is the turn of Ndigbo to produce Nigeria's next President.
Hear Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife at a meeting of the South-East leaders in Abuja recently: "By 2015, North-East has served more than five years; North-West has served more than five years; North-Central has served more than five years; South-West has served more than five years and by the time Jonathan will leave office, the South-South will have spent five years or more, leaving only the South-East that has not served as President of Nigeria."
Former Governor of Abia State and former Presidential candidate, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu did not mince words on his position in Igbo Presidency. He said :"Almost 48 years after the civil war, you are telling people they are not entitled to rule Nigeria. Is it a time bomb waiting to explode? Will it strengthen the nation or mar it? Obviously whichever way it is viewed, 2015 is a year with so, much uncertainties just as it is very critical to the future of Nigeria. That is the truth because we are the salt of the nation.
Whether you want to believe it or not, that is the truth. Anywhere you go in Nigeria and you don't see an Igbo man living there, nobody lives there. So why don't you give them the opportunity to rule their country? They have given Obasanjo, Yar'Adua, and Jonathan room to rule. Now is the South-East's turn. It's either the South-East or nothing."
But even amidst the Igbo agitations for power in 2015, there are misfires from some of Igbo sons who prefer to allow President Goodluck Jonathan a second chance so as to pursue the project afterwards. Senator Ben Obi; former Anambra State Governor, Dr. Chinweoke Mbadinuju; former President-General of Ohanaze Ndigbo, Dr. Chidozie Ikedife; are among the proponents of this idea. Ikedife however attaches a caveat to this.
Hear Dr. Ikedife: "I have made my position on this matter very clear. We, Ndigbo supported Jonathan during the last election. If the constitution allows him to contest again and he decides to run, I do not see why we must withdraw our support if he performs. So, I am saying that if he fulfills the promises he made and excels, we may support him, but if he does not fulfill his promises, it will be difficult to support his re-election."
Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju said: "The president has done well for Ndigbo. Every good turn deserves another. He has done for us what we never got before. We will repeat what we did in 2011 for him in 2015 by giving him the votes, all things being equal."
He added: "Jonathan is not weak as some people say, but his handicap is that he is presiding over a divided nation. We want to avoid a break- down of the society. If not for his style at the helm of affairs, Nigeria would have gone to a different page. I would like the president to hearken to those who have called for a national conference.
"It is distracting but at the same time inviting. What is important is that the president with his advisers should see it as vital especially coming from the elders of this country."
But in a swift response to the call of Ndigbo to support Jonathan for a second term, Dr. Kalu said: "Anybody who wants to run for the presidency should prepare to run. Why should they wait for anybody to tell them whether he will run or not? That is part of the things that are not right in our democracy.
"South-East has not been fairly treated. That is why when I see some Igbo people say they are waiting for Jonathan to decide whether he would run or not, I look at them as very stupid. Nobody should decide for anybody. As far as I am concerned, it is either you give Igbo the presidency or nothing".
Hear also another Igbo politician and a former Presidential candidate: "It is too early to endorse President Jonathan for re-election in 2015. One, because he has not said he would run. Two, we seem to be jumping the gun by crying more than the bereaved.
We must learn from our past. As we are talking, most of the promises he made to Ndigbo during the last election, when he got Igbo support, are yet to be delivered. I am talking of the second Niger Bridge, Enugu Airport, and another state for the zone, not mere appointment of some people to certain positions."
Governor of Imo State, Owella Rochas Okorocha also has a word for the Igbo elements conspiring to frustrate the zone of its Presidency slot. He said: "It is not Nigeria that is alienating the South-East. It is a wrong statement. Rather, it is the South-East that is alienating itself. They have not demonstrated enough courage in pursuing this course."
He added: "Nobody can donate presidency to you because you are Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba. You have to struggle for it. You see, we must begin to repackage ourselves so that the entire nation can buy our stories.
The South-East should be able to say to Nigerians, 'we have a candidate and this candidate is good.' That's how to look at the politics of nowadays rather than going back to lick the old wounds of marginalization."
2015 and President Jonathan's reaction
For one, President Jonathan has not said publicly he will seek re-election in 2015. But even as he appears to be very tacit on the issue, most people who are in the know say his body language indicates that he might still go for another round of contest.
Speaking recently against the backdrop that the ex-President Obasanjo may have abandoned Jonathan for some other person for 2015, his Adviser on Political Matters, Alhaji Ahmed Gulak said; "No person can abridge Jonathan's constitutional rights to aspire to that office.
Nigerians should be allowed to choose who they want to lead them. I cannot remember at any point when Nigerians have come together to give any person the power to anoint any person to become President of this country. Only God can anoint somebody to the exalted office. Whether or not Jonathan will take a shot at 2015 is not yet decided. The fate of every human being who aspires to be president is in the hands of God. The fate of President Jonathan with regard to 2015 elections is in the hands of God and in the hands of Nigerians".
Apparently disturbed by the noise about 2015, President Jonathan recently put a word across to politicians just as the national Chairman of the ruling PDP warned the President and his Vice to suspend talks about 2015 and deliver on energy and social infrastructures.
Jonathan, who spoke in Lagos through his Senior Special Adviser on Research, Documentation and Strategy, Mr. Oronto Douglas, at a media presentation of a book entitled Sure and Steady Transformation, recently said his main focus was to keep his promises to Nigerians which are already being witnessed across the country with the improvement in the power sector.
According to Jonathan, "there seems to be more politics in Nigeria than governance. In other democracies, politics stops at the end of an election and governance starts. But in Nigeria, it is the opposite.
"Politics will not put food on the tables of the people. It is governance that will. Let us focus on governance."
Meanwhile, the national chairman of PDP, Alhaji Turkur used the occasion of his 77th birthday recently to appeal to President Jonathan and his Vice, Namadi Sambo to pre-occupy themselves with social developments rather than politics.
He said: "PDP has been in government for 13 years because the party is consistent.
"We are not talking of 2015, but infrastructure development, energy, health, agriculture among others. We are talking of performance and not 2015. Give us energy. I am not after 2015 now, all I am interested in is selling the person who has done well based on his performance to the people by 2015. When we get to the bridge of 2015, we will cross it."
Indeed, to the ordinary man on the street, the noise about 2015 does not make any sense when the agricultural sector, Power, education, health and in fact, most critical sectors of the economy are in shambles.
Again, in a country where insecurity and corruption have defined the culture of the people, talks about who clinches power in 2015 tends to give one convulsions.
Some analysts reason that in some other climes, leaders who fail to improve the lives of the citizenry in their first outing wouldn't be too inquisitive to seek another term. But then, where power goes in 2015 still lies in the womb of time.